This is a transcript of my My View column that was published in the Doncaster Star on Monday 1 August, 2016
Yorkshire folk have a reputation for being friendly and caring and here in Doncaster our communities are full of people who are happy to lend a helping hand when it’s needed.
Looking out for each other and stepping in to help the most vulnerable in our society when they need it most is going to become more important in the future, particularly with our growing elderly population.
Doncaster’s caring approach is no better illustrated than when it comes to dementia, as we work towards our ambition of becoming a dementia friendly borough. It’s a continuous journey, but we recently passed a magnificent milestone when Sharon Coe, from Askern, became Doncaster’s 10,000th Dementia Friend.
Not only that, but she quickly put to good use what she had learned.
Sharon, who works for voluntary sector support organisation CVS in Doncaster town centre, attended an hour long Dementia Friends awareness raising session run by her colleague, Tom McKnight – pictured here with her. Tom, who is also a Dementia Friends’ champion, explained how ordinary people can help those who have the disease.
A Dementia Friend learns a little bit about what it’s like to live with dementia and then turns that understanding into action. It could be, for example, helping someone who is struggling to count out the correct money at a supermarket checkout, or helping someone to find their way to where they want to be.
Shortly after attending the information session, Sharon was returning to work with some shopping when she noticed an elderly man stood in the central refuge of the two Pelican crossings that span the dual carriageway near Doncaster Railway Station. Sharon said he appeared confused and unsure which way to go and appeared to ask a couple of passers-by who carried on walking as they told him where to go.
He still appeared lost and asked another pedestrian for directions and that’s when Sharon’s training kicked in. She caught up with him and asked him if he was ok. He told her he was trying to find the bus station to catch his bus home.
Sharon found out where he wanted to be and showed him to the correct bay in the bus station, where the grateful man gave her a hug and thanked her for helping him.
Sharon, who has elderly parents herself, is not sure she would have reacted in the same way had she not attended the information session. She said it made her more aware, gave her the knowledge to spot the potential tell-tale signs of dementia and the confidence to step in and offer to help.
Currently, nearly 2,600 Doncaster residents have been diagnosed with dementia, but for our population size we expect there to be a further 1,000 people who have the disease but have not yet been diagnosed.
Why not become a Dementia Friend and help us reach 20,000? Find out how by visiting www.dementiafriends.co.uk